Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Samiyam - Sam Baker's Album

(Brainfeeder LP)

The LA-based label/collective Brainfeeder – helmed by beat wizard Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus – have built up one of the more formidable rosters 2011 has to offer. So far we’ve had excellent releases from Tokimonsta, Matthewdavid, Mono/Poly, Jeremiah Jae and Taylor McFerrin, with heavily-anticipated records still to come from jazz-influenced prodigy Thundercat and freshly-signed dubstep figurehead Martyn. Characterised by a wide diversity of styles and a forward-thinking approach (Ellison himself completely overhauled his signature sound for last year’s dazzling Cosmogramma), the label has come a long way since its first official release, which was Samiyam’s Rap Beats Volume 1 in 2009. Probably the closest thing to a ‘quintessential’ Brainfeeder sound, Samiyam’s short, layered and colourful beat-sketches proved to be a major influence on much instrumental hip-hop in the last year or two.


Sam Baker’s Album doesn’t see him deviate too much from the blueprint. Whereas none of the tracks on Rap Beats hit the two-minute mark, Samiyam tends to persist with a groove for a bit longer now; nevertheless, the longest track here comes in at just under four minutes. The producer prefers the concise approach, allowing his catchy creations enough time to shine but cutting them short before they risk sounding repetitive. Opening track ‘Escape’ leads in with deceptive retro-sounding synths before seguing into a more familiar warped and funk-tinged sound. On numbers like ‘Where Am I’ and ‘Cushion’, thick, imposing, bass-heavy grooves mix with hazy, off-kilter touches, making for a subtly hypnotic brew. Elsewhere, the wonky ‘Frosting Packets’ features those unmistakeable 8-bit touches that were in evidence on his Return EP for Hyperdub.


The physicality of the percussion and low-end combined with the trippy quality of the compositions accounts for much of this record’s appeal. While Samiyam tends to stick to those strengths, what Sam Baker’s Album lacks in variety it makes up for in cohesion and atmosphere. As Jamie Redknapp would say: a top, top producer at work.

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